Jefferson County newspapers now printed at central plant
The most noticeable change readers should see in the county newspapers this week is the size.
The papers are now being printed at a central plant and the publishers must conform to the new mechanical dimensions.
The papers in recent years have been printed at the Valley Falls plant Tuesday and distributed Wednesday to sales counters and post offices.
Under the new system the schedule is not expected to change much, but there may be some bumps in the early stages.
“We knew this was coming for quite some time as we watched the trends in the printing industry,” Clarke Davis, editor, said. “When it was no longer economically viable for the daily newspapers such as Topeka and Lawrence to have pressrooms, we wondered how much longer we could continue.”
The size will catch attention since both county papers were probably the widest in the state. They were printed on a 33-inch roll of newsprint producing a page width of 16 1/2 inches. Now it’s printed on a 25-inch roll for a page width of 12 1/2 inches.
A page has gone from having seven columns to six and those columns are narrower.
Why has the company made the change?
Even though the press itself still functions and probably would for a long time, the technology required to get a newspaper to press has far outpaced the ability of a small company to afford.
The Imagesetter that creates the film along with the processors that develop film and plates are old and no longer sustainable.
“Equipment manufacturers have shortened the duration that they will provide parts or technical support making it difficult to maintain older equipment,” Corey Davis, publisher and plant manager, said.
The industry for the most part no longer uses film and central plants are using direct-to-plate technology — but again at a price far beyond the means of a small plant.
“There was a day when three or four paper salesmen routinely come through every month along with someone selling graphic art supplies and equipment,” said Corey Davis, pressman and plant manager.
Paper companies have merged leaving only one large one and costs for supplies have increased greatly.
“There are only a couple of sales people who come through now and it’s only because they are devoted people who have worked with us for years,” Davis said. “I can still get paper but because we don’t buy a semi-load we pay 25 percent more.”
Trying to buy film, press plates, and chemistry is yet another story. “Fewer companies are manufacturing the supplies needed for this older style of printing and the prices are rising accordingly,” Davis added.
When the Imagesetter failed a couple of months ago, the company was able to get press plates made in Topeka until the newsprint supply was exhausted.
The digital pages will now be sent by internet to a plant in Mound City, Mo., where the papers will be printed, inserted, and addressed Tuesday morning.
Davis Publications will continue serving its commercial job printing customers.
There was a printing press in Jefferson County before statehood and The Oskaloosa Independent was one of the papers being printed during territorial days.
The Independent began publication in July 1860, six months before Kansas was admitted to the Union. It remains as one of only three territorial papers still being printed today.
The Valley Falls Vindicator start date is somewhat elusive. The current volume number, 153, would put it back to 1864, but it did not carry the same name. The first time “Vindicator” appeared was The Farmers’ Vindicator in 1890. The name changed to Valley Falls Vindicator in the 1920s.
All newspapers were printed using the letterpress method from the earliest times up until about 1960 when the offset method began to take over.
The type was handset in the 1800s, but the Linotype — invented in the 1880s — began showing up on the prairie around the time of World War I. This automated typesetting saved many hours of labor.
The last letterpress edition for the county newspapers was March 31, 1977. The papers were taken to a central plant for printing for five years.
Offset printing, a photographic process using film to burn an image on a press plate, came to Jefferson County in 1982 when this company installed a two-unit Goss Community press. The first offset editions were printed May 27, 1982, and it has continued for 35 years until this week.
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